Last birthday wishes

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Thai Anh

It is said that it is difficult to have a pure friendship between two men and women, this seems to be true for you and me. (Illustration: Eunice Isha Blaya/Pixabay)

From halfway around the world, the news that you suddenly passed away from COVID-19 made me very surprised and disappointed. I heard before that you also felt uncomfortable, so you treated yourself at home, temporarily took cold medicine if you had a fever, drank lemon juice, took vitamins C, D.

At that time, I heard from my sister that in Saigon, people aged 65 and over started to register their names for the first vaccination, so if you have registered your name, you will lose it.

One afternoon you find yourself short of breath and tired, your son has taken his father to the emergency room by means of a self-sufficient vehicle, which is the family’s motorbike. Walking in the middle of the road, you choked a lot, so before you got to the hospital, you stopped breathing and left, a very painful death for the family.

After hearing the bad news, I recalled that a few years ago my friend told me that she had a heart condition and had to be hospitalized for a while. I know that people infected with COVID-19 will be very life-threatening if the patient has chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes … and you are unlucky to be among them!

Friends, I am heartbroken to hear of your passing. Just last month, you sent an email to wish you a happy birthday, at that time in Saigon there was only a curfew from 6 pm to 6 am, you lamented how boring it was to stay indoors. You are the same age as me, but you have been retired for many years, staying at home to take care of your grandchildren. You got married many years before me, so you have grandchildren to take care of, and your son is still going to school.

Actually, you and I are not classmates, but neighbors. Before 1975, I knew that your house was in the neighborhood near my house, but at that time, I had the opportunity to see your face, only knowing that you were close to home, but we did not talk to each other. Only after 1975, the local government organized a neighborhood organization, then a youth and women’s group…, because they wanted to avoid all government scrutiny because their family had an older brother who was a soldier in the Viet Cong army. Hoa, my sister and brother-in-law also worked in the old government… so I had to register with the local community, so I met and got to know you.

So you and I had the opportunity to meet and get to know each other. You have a way of talking like a joke, really naughty; Many stories you tell yourself sound like they really happened, only to find out later that it was a joke. Because of the same age, they both called each other names when talking.

It is said that it is difficult to have a pure friendship between two men and women, this seems to be true for you and me. I was vaguely familiar with you more than a normal friendship. Every evening, I wait for the sound of your bicycle to pass by my house, like a habit that is hard to break. A few times in the evening, you walk over to your house and ask me to drink at a restaurant near your house, there are times when you ask me to go for a walk to watch a small cinema near your house. All those “dating” times were just random exchanges, no one had asked anyone to ask, I don’t know if I should call it “inner love” but on the outside, I…

All the “dating” times only had random exchange stories, no one had proposed to anyone, I don’t know if I should call it “inner love” but outside was still e… (Illustration: Piyapong Saydaung/Pixabay)

Then suddenly I didn’t see you for a while, I was also busy with my daily work, so it seemed like I had forgotten about you. Only later met again, saw that you were much sicker, only to find out that your absence was because you failed to cross the border, worried about going back to your hometown to hide for a while. The contact between the two also gradually thinned out, each person having their own part of life to take care of.

Until one day you came to my house to give me a wedding invitation to invite me and my sister to a party at home. My two sisters were present, and the younger sister suggested that she attend as friends to avoid misunderstandings. When I left after wishing you happiness with your new family, I also felt sad that my love story had turned the page. You took me to the door to say thank you and goodbye, then suddenly you held my hand tightly. You apologize for disappointing me and wish you soon find a lasting happiness for your life. The handshake instead of an apology to me, the handshake that made my heart flutter at that time.

Later, I also have my own family, come back to be with my husband and sometimes visit my father; then my father passed away, I went home less, my friend and I no longer trusted each other.

A few years later, I moved to the United States, and since then, the two have not trusted each other. There are times when I suddenly remember that I feel sad in my heart, you and I already have our own lives, there are still some beautiful memories of the two hands clasped together for the first time and said goodbye after the wedding party. your.

A few years later, when I went back to Vietnam to visit my family, I met the neighbor girl who was also living together at that time, she knew about me and you, saying that you had moved away from the neighborhood for a long time. You have two sons, he wrote down your phone number for him to call and visit like longtime friends who don’t trust each other.

Returning to the US, once I called you, heard you say that you and your wife are retired, two sons are married and still live in the same house with their parents. That’s also good, grandparents take turns taking care of their grandchildren, so they are busy all day, but it’s fun. A happiness of old age with children and grandchildren, not everyone who wants to be like you can get it!

Then there was a time when I received a message from you via my phone number, you wished me a happy birthday, warm and friendly wishes. I am so surprised and grateful, how did you know my date of birth, this is still a mystery to me even though you are no longer alive, this secret has followed you.

Previously, I knew your date of birth because my father after 1975 was the head of the neighborhood, kept all the copies of the household registration books of the families in the group, your house and mine were in the same group, so I know your date of birth. I was born a few months before you, so my birthday was before yours, and then I thanked you, I sent you birthday wishes. Finally, without an appointment, it became a habit, from that time until now, each year the two of them wish each other birthdays; Tet holidays also send greetings, sometimes friends or I also send messages to ask each other.

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to return to Vietnam for three weeks to visit my family, near the day I returned to the US, I visited my friends, when I met, I wanted to imitate Phan Khoi’s poem teasing you “For the past few decades, a sad afternoon. In winter, two gray heads meet with joy and sorrow, glance at each other’s eyes with tails …” but actually my hair and I have dew point. When you broke up, you took me to the street, called an Uber for me, waited for the car, you said you didn’t know if you would ever see me again, the beauty of life is not very impermanent, I reassured you, why are you so pessimistic. When the car arrives, you suddenly hold my hand tightly to wish me a safe journey, the feeling of vibration like the first time you held my hand came back, I left with a little heart fluttering…

I did not expect that the time I said goodbye to you three years ago when I came home to visit you was also the time to say goodbye to you forever. (Illustration: Alex261078/Pixabay)

Last year in the US was raging by the COVID-19 epidemic, you also asked a few times to wish you peace. This year 2021, the state of Vietnam, especially my dear Saigon, is unexpectedly a copy of the US in 2020. I have also lost a few of them, as well as friends still in Vietnam.

Even my own step-brother has just been infected with COVID-19 in a life-changing battle, he seems to have just returned from the dead after being treated in the hospital for five weeks. He was discharged home from the hospital while in quarantine for 14 days.

My brother recounted that when he was isolated, temporarily called an ambulance, taken to the hospital, his lungs were severely damaged, the hospital also did not hope to save him alive, but perhaps due to the number of it left so it finally escaped death. He told how many people around him had passed away every day, and his spirit was severely degraded. Now that he has returned home, his health is still very weak, he has lost nearly 20 kg, but his brother is still alive anyway.

And you were unlucky, you passed away on the way to the hospital, sudden and painful death for your family too! I live half a world away from you, when I heard the news of your death, it was also very heartbreaking. From now on every year until my birthday, no one sends me a friendly greeting, even the nickname you gave me, and only you call me by my intimate name combined with the third person. in his family and his name.

I still remember that time when I heard you call, I had a question and asked why, you laughed wittily and told me to say the opposite, it took me a while to think of its meaning, and I felt a little bit happy. happy every time I hear you call. Now that the familiar nickname has followed you forever, I will never hear or see that name again, my friend.

Life is impermanent, then you see it and then say goodbye. I did not expect the handshake to say goodbye to you three years ago when I returned to visit you, I came to see you as a long-term friendship, also a handshake to say goodbye to you forever.

My friend, your body has now turned to ashes, death from COVID-19 is very sad, dear, without a loved one by your side, when you return to your family, the body is only a handful of ashes. In the jar, dust has returned to dust! You have gone forever to a place where you will no longer be entangled in dust, your debt is over. Rest peacefully in that eternal place, and remember this earthly place and your loved ones always miss you, your beloved wife still misses you, keep your peace. be safe for them.

I’m here alone, I still remember I owe you a birthday wish.

“Currently, every day here is a sad day, the epidemic is spreading. Van Thanh Market this morning has also restricted movement although there are no signs of danger, most people stay at home, fast and pray for it to be well until the situation gets better,” these lines are the last email. wrote to me before I heard that you passed away only about half a month.

You were born in Autumn, you die in Autumn. From now on Autumn with me will have one more memory of you. These words replace the last birthday wishes I wrote to you, is a friendship enough… Let me remember forever, my friend! (Thai Anh) [qd]

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